The Flushing Times has the story: "The hearing, scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 2 in the auditorium of the library, located at 41-17 Main St., will be the only official opportunity for Willets landowners and business owners, as well as any other concerned citizens, to voice their views about the $3 billion plans to representatives of the city Economic Development Corp. and Cornerstone Group, the firm handling relocation of area businesses."
Ah yes, the Cornerstone Group-the same pretenders who EDC put in charge of the relocation of the businesses that were thrwon out of the Bronx Terminal Market. As we pointed out five years ago about these no-bid favorites: "There is a constant reference to the Cornerstone Group as the city’s relocation expert. Still? Doesn’t our “senior counsel” realize that these dopey consultants had labored long and hard Xeroxing advertisements from the local newspapers and passed off this effort as relocation (of course she does, she just doesn’t give a damn)?"
But we digress. The issue here is the city's flauting of the very law it is sworn to uphold-and we will now rely on the wisdom of one of the foremost experts on the EDPL, Mike Rikon, to explain just how tainted this process has been ever since the city council passed the Willets Point ULURP appliocation in the fall of 2008. Once the council passed the application, the eminent domain procedures in the EDPL should have been initiated in order for the city to be in compliance with the law.
Here's Rikon's analysis: "The Council of the City of New York adopted Resolution No. 1759 on December 18, 2008. This Resolution with other related Resolutions adopted the Willets Point Urban Renewal Area. The Resolution approved the Urban Renewal Plan, the Resolution states, “the Plan requires the acquisition and subsequent disposition of property within the Willets Point Urban Renewal Area.” This is the predicate authorization to condemn."
Once the authorization is in place, then the next steps are clear-to everyone bu the city, it appears: "When the City Council authorizes acquisition of private property, the City is required to comply with the Eminent Domain Procedure Law. That law requires the appraisal of the properties to be acquired and the written offer of an amount that represents 100% of the highest approved appraisal."
Instead, the city did the complete opposite, in a move rife with favoritism and potential corruption:
"When the City Council authorizes acquisition of private property, the City is required to comply with the Eminent Domain Procedure Law. That law requires the appraisal of the properties to be acquired and the written offer of an amount that represents 100% of the highest approved appraisal. It is no secret that those owners who obtained favorable deals were also those that supported members of the City Council that wrote an “adamant opposition” letter signed by 29 members to prevent the project’s approval. But the Project was approved after the negotiated agreements were made.
The City’s improper conduct in ignoring the law’s requirement of written offers based on fair market appraisals and equal treatment to all property owners is inexcusable. The law was adopted to prevent corruption and special deals."
But, as we pointed out last week in regards to the disgraceful treatment of Carlos Canal and Flushing Towing, favoritism and inequity is at the heart of this entire process: "EDC lied to Canal-and took him through a two year sham relocation process. But Canal shouldn't feel too bad. EDC has lied to the city council, lied to the court, and lied to almost every other land owner that wasn't singled out for favored nation status-lying to Canal is part of a systematic pattern of dishonesty that will be challenged in court."
Of course, as we have pointed out continually, the city also told one and all that condemnation-a supposed last resort-would not begin until the city got approvals for those crucial ramps. That position held until it became clear that the ramp approvals-thought to be a slam dunk by EDC-all of a sudden became problematic after WPU exposed the deficiency of the traffic data submitted by the agency's compromised consultants. These so called experts, so unused to anyone challenging their work, must have been stunned when WPU's Brian Ketcham exposed it as a sham-and the agency itself has been playing catch up ever since.
So the move to the EDPL hearing, in spite of the fact that the remaining property owners have yet to even get the required appraisals, no less an offer, is one of desperation on the part of EDC-a desperation so profound that this rogue group is willing to roll the legal dice by violating what it has alocuted to the court about the ramp approvals proceeding any eminent domain process.
We'll give Rikon the last word: "Condemnation is a very significant power. It enables a condemnor to forcibly take title to someone’s land or business If this awesome power is to be used by the government, it must be used carefully, legally and only when necessary."